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Physically drained, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy calls for reinforcements

Mike Gundy hasn't lost his love for dialing up the right play to keep Oklahoma State's offense purring along.

That passion, which he has called the most enjoyable part of his job as head coach, was bred into him as an offensive coordinator. Long before that, he was a starting quarterback for the Cowboys.

But after nearly five years in charge at OSU, Gundy realized that it was time to start letting go.

"I knew that eventually I was going to have to get out of it because I couldn't keep up," Gundy said. "Just physically, I couldn't do it."

Fairly or not, the 43-year-old coach gained an intense reputation around college football three years ago when he delivered his "I'm a man! I'm 40!" rant at a newspaper columnist after a game. It may still be the moment people know best about him, but Gundy sees himself continuing to learn and grow as a coach.

He said he understands now the value of patience, and appreciates that players who are giving their best and committed to his system will get better in time.

"You can go out there and scream at them and run them to death. You're not going to get anywhere," Gundy said. "It's not going to make them a better player."

And running himself to death won't do the trick, either.

In the same exhausting profession that caused Florida's Urban Meyer to temporarily step away to focus on health concerns, a worn-down Gundy began wondering late last season whether he needed to bring in help.

He'd already decided to take more of a hands-off approach with the defense, trusting coordinator Bill Young's decades of expertise over his own background as an offensive coach. Then after last season, he approached athletic director Mike Holder about taking similar steps on the other side of the ball, seeking an offensive coordinator who could handle more of the game-planning and play-calling.

Gundy found his man when Dana Holgorsen, the architect of the nation's top offense last year at Houston, agreed to sign on.

"It'll definitely add years to my life," said Gundy, who added that he's never been asked to change coordinators. "I love this job because of the many challenges we face, from finding an offensive and defensive scheme to recruiting to dealing with (disciplinary issues) and all the things you deal with every single day. I really enjoy it.

"I've always said if it gets to be where I don't look forward to it, I'm done. I'll go do something else."

Instead, he's finding a new way to do what he loves. In putting Holgorsen in charge of the offense, Gundy estimates that he's regained six hours each day to spend on other ways to improve Oklahoma State's football team.

He's taking time in the morning to call recruits and doubling the number of letters he can write to those players. No longer does he find himself rushing into the office at 5:45 a.m. trying to figure out what the Cowboys should run on third-and-5.

That new routine still doesn't feel entirely comfortable heading into his team's season opener Saturday night against Washington State. He believes the non-stop pace he'd grown accustomed to was also a way to keep him from losing focus.

"That's the one concern I have is I'm here all the time, but I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off," Gundy said.

He believes the head coach, like the CEO at any company, should be working just as hard as the new guy still trying to prove himself. Sometimes it's hard for him to realize that while he's not as involved in some aspects of the game-planning, one of those extra phone calls or letters just might end up bringing in the Cowboys' next program-changing superstar.

"If somebody would put a sprinkler system in your front yard, I want to be digging the ditch. I don't want to be standing there telling somebody to dig it," Gundy said. "That's hard for me."